Posted November 10, 2014 by Benjamin Williams 

What is in a Chicken Biscuit?

A popular chicken chain is opening up in Oxford, Ohio, and my students are going crazy. They are excited to use them to cater events, hand out coupons, and potentially dress up as cows. I have been in several meetings with a variety of opinions being expressed about bringing the chain on campus, partnering for promotions, and the challenges/opportunities for programming.

QueeringUnionsAs a gay man, I made a choice that I would no longer eat at this particular chain because of the flow of money from my pocket to organizations that advocate against marriage equality. As a professional, I have found myself in a sticky situation where my personal values clash strongly with what students want to do. Some professionals thought I shouldn’t bring it up to students, and others supported this endeavor. I made a plan and talked to my students. Some were dismissive of my concerns, and others worried that we would alienate GLBTQ students on campus. So I asked my students to come up with responses to two questions:

  • Why use this company over a local business?
  • What will you say to an GLBTQ student who confronts you for using their student fee money to support a company that donates to foundations that advocate against marriage equality?

They came up with reasons to not use local businesses, such as cost or the brand recognition this company provides. When faced with what they would say to a student who came up to them and expressed a concern, the mood changed. Some students had a sad look on their face, and others made no eye contact. They decided against using the company. From my perspective, this is the power of the work we do within our offices and within the walls of unions and student centers across the world.

In talking to them since, students shared that this was the first time they had to think about the impact an action would have on another person. I spend my days reading Chickering, Astin, Cass, Baxter-Magolda, and others, but this was student development live and in person.

So what is in a chicken biscuit, a Halloween costume, or that comedian who makes jokes about rape? Opportunities to engage in critical conversations about values. I believe we create a better world by having these conversations as professionals and consider having them with our students when they choose a speaker, comedian, theme, or food vendor the programs and buildings we oversee.

Benjamin Williams

Benjamin Williams is the Associate Program Director, Student Center at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Ben manages a facility inside the Student Center; advises the Homecoming, Ramblin Nights, and Music committees for the Student Center Programs Council; and supervises six student staff in Under the Couch, a music listening space where students can perform, record music, or just study. He holds a bachelor’s in sociology from Georgia State University and a master’s from Miami University. His ACUI involvement includes serving on Regional Leadership Teams, the Education and Research Fund Program Team, and currently as one of the program leads for I-LEAD®.

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